“Please,” I said for the I-lost-count time, “Stop making that noise. Just talk to each other. Talk to us. Read a book. Look at the sunset. Do anything besides make that noise.”
Then there was silence for roughly half a minute before the noise started again. In stereo.
“Look,” I said. “We are planning to go out to dinner tonight to celebrate the good grades you earned. I would hate for us to miss your reward because of your behavior.”
Then there was silence, a pouty face, some mumbling of an insincere apology, and a heaviness that spread from the backseat and tried to cover us all. That lasted a minute and then the moment of faux shame was lost to noises loud and frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong, I know they were just trying to make an otherwise dull situation into something entertaining, but their mother and I were trying to have a serious conversation that was stressful enough without a blatant disregard for authority dancing in the backseat. It was a conversation that they were supposed to be part of, hence having it in their presence, but even words weighted with choice and consequences could not compete with yelling “car!” every time that one was seen. In Los Angeles. During rush hour.
We pulled into the restaurant despite them giving us every reason not to, and the youngest boy jumped out to join my wife in the parking lot. He, per usual, was starving.
The oldest boy didn’t move. He sat in his seat willing his jacket to swallow him. His lips pursed and his eyes low, he filled me with fear for a future of mood swings and pangs of doubt perceived as far too painful. Frankly, his ability to turn his own innocence and sunshine into so much negative space scares the hell out of me. It is something that we are addressing now in hopes that his teen years will greet him somewhat warmly.
I took his face in my hands and he looked at me, angry and sullen.
“There are a lot of people that will make life hard for you,” I said. “You shouldn’t be one of them.”
“Okay,” he answered.
And then I tickled him until he smiled without prodding.
“Let’s go inside and eat. Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” he said.
He took my hand and we walked together through the cold, dark parking lot toward the bright window floating in front of us like the end to the proverbial tunnel. His mother and brother were framed in its glow, laughing at words we couldn’t hear and awaiting our arrival.
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).